How the Land Rover Discovery Helped Me Get Engaged

Sami Haj-Assaad
by Sami Haj-Assaad

“Hey, they’re in a Land Rover, like you guys!” This, of course, is my mom making small talk about the Royal Family during a particularly busy time of my life.

The setting is Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, a mere 7,000 miles away from home. Coming off a 13-hour flight, my mission in the country was to meet the parents of my fiancée and to formally ask them for permission to marry her.

It’s unfamiliar territory, something I’ve never done, in a country I’ve never been, but I’ve surrounded myself with the right people (my better half is here for the proceedings, along with my own parents, who have spent some time in the country before, in their more youthful and adventurous days) and the right vehicle, the aforementioned Land Rover.

The Land Rover Discovery isn’t quite the iconic model that many picture when they think of the British brand. Most would associate the logo with the flashy and luxurious Range Rover SUV, or the rugged and unflappable (and unavailable in North America) Defender. The Discovery is the family-friendly model, a calm and capable three-row SUV with a ton of creature comforts.

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The Reason We’re Out Here

And while I don’t have kids (as of yet! I just got engaged, give me some time!) the Discovery certainly proved to be a stoic, helpful companion during this pivotal time in my life. Was I stressed? Slightly… it’s one thing to be in a new country while trying to impress your future in-laws, but I’m also dealing with some cultural differences, which makes things potentially trickier. I have to learn about and respect traditions that I’ve never been introduced to, all while trying to keep my cool.

A total of three events are on the agenda: an informal meeting of the minds (a gathering of our immediate families) to approve of the engagement, a blessing of the engagement that is done by the extended family and friends, and finally a signing of a marriage certificate, a tradition that should be done after the blessing and with the whole family around. Since we have all our family in one country for once, it seemed like the right thing to do. That certificate was a last-minute addition to the itinerary, and my fiancée and I were caught off guard by a long list of requirements in Abu Dhabi that we needed to fulfill. Having this Land Rover on hand to get things like wedding bands, photos, and medical checks done was a huge asset.

Discovery is the right word for the trip. I’m discovering more about the world my folks left behind, and the one my fiancée’s family calls home. Having lived my entire life in North America in a city that’s diverse and multicultural, I’ve learned a lot about so many walks of life. Learning about this kind of stuff is one thing, and being a part of it is a whole different animal. It may sound like a lot to do, but it’s worth it to make the love of my life happy. I can sense that she also has a slight fear of scaring me or my family off with all these traditions, but the worries wane when we’re together.

The Right SUV For the Job

Things are very different in Abu Dhabi than they are at home. Even this Land Rover has its own unique-to-the-UAE features compared to the ones we have at home. Under the hood, the automaker has equipped this car with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It makes about 300 horsepower, which is pretty impressive for a four-banger. Back here in North America, this full-size Discovery comes with a supercharged six-cylinder that makes 340 horsepower.

It sounds like a noticeable power difference, but the four-cylinder sprints to 62 mph in 7.7 seconds, while the six does it in 7.1. The smaller engine feels a bit peaky and less smooth than a six, but it gets the job done in the Middle East, where speed limits reach about 75 mph on some stretches of the highway. If this engine made its way to North America, I’d wager it’d fit in.

Fitting in is sometimes ideal in unfamiliar territory. On the roads, it’s easy to match the behaviors of other drivers, with other motorists on the E10 pacing themselves to avoid the exorbitant fees from the automated speed cameras that are placed every kilometer on the highway. But in public, it’s hard to avoid getting too affectionate with my fiancée in order to avoid the uncomfortable stares from passers-by. Urban legends say that unmarried couples can get jailed for getting too lovey-dovey in the not-too-distant city of Dubai. As rebellious as my fiancée and I are, we don’t want that to be the highlight of this trip… At least we can hold hands in the privacy of the quiet SUV.

Fitting in on Four Wheels

Everything else about the powertrain is familiar. An eight-speed automatic distributes power to all four wheels; a part of the impressive capability that Land Rovers are known for. There are steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for when you want to take control of things, and if you want the vehicle to handle tough situations, a rotary dial helps to adjust the stability and powertrain settings for different road conditions.

The Terrain Response system is suited to be a helpful guide in inclement situations. It’s familiar with sand, mud, gravel, rocks, and snow, although I managed to keep the Land Rover on asphalt for the entirety of the trip. Unfortunately, the Terrain Response can’t handle the nagging questions about each day’s activities, traditions, dress codes, and expectations. It doesn’t remind me of the names of every aunt, uncle, cousin and family friend I’ve met this week, or the politically charged topics to avoid during small talk over dinner.

Then again, there are a few handy features in the car that helped me deal with my family, including lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring. Those are always handy features when I’m practically babysitting my parents as they poke every feature and button in the car, all while I’m trying not to say or do anything that could ruin this special occasion.

The parking features proved to be much more helpful. A 360-degree view of the car is provided, and additional camera angles can help you pinpoint the location of the vehicle in a parking spot. Even though the region seems to love the Toyota Land Cruiser, Nissan Patrol, Range Rover and other big SUVs, the parking spots seem surprisingly small. There are also a few parking assistance features to park the car in parallel or perpendicular spots if things are a bit tricky to do yourself.

Smart and Comforting

When I’m parking or on the road, the Discovery offers guidance, not unlike all the advice I’ve received up to this point in my relationship with my fiancée. For her, the truck is a place where she can debrief me on who we met and what was said about us. All positives, by the way (phew!).

The car’s actual navigation and guidance features are best-in-class. Searching for locations, even with the complex ways addresses are expressed in the Middle East, is no problem. A big color HUD helps show speed and navigation information, and the digital gauge cluster is bright and customizable. Even better, the navigation prompts are polite and easy to understand.

Putting the driver and passengers at ease are the impressive comfort features. There’s a four-zone automatic climate control system that helps to curb the sweat-inducing effects of increased heart rate levels due to stress and the 40-degree Celcius (104 Fahrenheit) temperatures. Pair that with the four vented seats and the Land Rover turns into a big igloo. Fortunately, there’s no need to worry about getting cold feet and with massage seats in the front two thrones, I’m not getting too tense.

In the end, the trip is a resounding success. Every announcement is made, every embrace is complete, and I’ve kissed the correct cheeks the perfect number of times. I am now a part of a big, new family, and one that’s eager to share all their cultural differences with me.

The Verdict: 2019 Land Rover Discovery

A well equipped and luxurious SUV, this Land Rover Discovery wasn’t cheap, but the comfort and solace it provided during this stressful time were priceless. The car transformed into a source of calm, something that was much appreciated during a trip that had so much riding on it, where so much could have potentially gone wrong. But everything worked out just fine in the end. And I think this was a perfect start for the lifetime of discoveries and new (sometimes stressful) experiences that await me and my future wife.

Hey, as my mom pointed out, if it’s good enough for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle or Prince William and Kate, then maybe it’s good enough for me and my fiancée too.

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Sami Haj-Assaad
Sami Haj-Assaad

Sami has an unquenchable thirst for car knowledge and has been at AutoGuide for the past six years. He has a degree in journalism and media studies from the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto and has won multiple journalism awards from the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada. Sami is also on the jury for the World Car Awards.

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  • Casselberg Casselberg on May 26, 2018

    Is it really necessary to curse using God's name in vain to discuss the short comings of a vehicle, Honda Pilot vs VW? Really? No class, No professionalism, No watch!!!